Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Accidental Sausage and Lentil Soup

I really love soup. Mom@ballandpie was never a slouch in the kitchen, but soup is always where she shines (the great curdling disaster of thanksgiving 2005, excepted). I do OK, but this is only time I think I've come close to her standard. I came up with this recipe after discovering that a low carb soup mix had way more sugar than I'd realized. Oops. And then I didn't have enough of the right kind of stock. And what I ended up with, I couldn't stop eating for days. I've since been iterating, and this time, I didn't have the appropriate italian sausage. However, I did have some freezer burned pork shoulder and a brand new meat grinding attachment for my Kitchen-Aid mixer - so I took the opportunity to make some. For Science:

1 lb hot ground sausage (Italian)
2 cups lentils (1/2 red, 1/2 green)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 package frozen spinach
4 Cups Beef Stock
8 Cups Chicken Stock
28 can of San Marzano tomatoes (make sure you've got the good italian kind)
1 cup red wine (ideally on the dryer side)
1 tbsp Hot Paprika
1 tbsp Thyme (dry, use more for fresh chopped)
1 tsp Sage or to taste
1/2 tsp crushed/coarsely ground fennel seed (to spike the soup if you don't have italian sausage).
granulated garlic
onion powder

Sausage (prepare 24 hr in advance):
3 lbs boneless pork butt or ground pork
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 tsp granulated garlic
0.5 tsp onion powder
2 tbsp hot paprika
2.5 tbps extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds (for traditional hot italian, fennel or anise seeds are probably more appropriate).
1 tsp crushed red pepper

How I did it:
Making the sausage was inspired by an Alton Browncast discussion about creative using of food products past their prime (but still safe). Fortunately, grinding or slow-cooking meat goes a long way toward making it palatable. And it's fun.This is pretty straightforward, but be sure to allow at least 24 hrs for it to sit and get sausagey:

Way more than I expected
1. Grind the pork butt (I used the finer size), or get pre-ground pork.
2. Mix in salt, garlic, onion and paprika.
3. Quickly blend oil with cumin and red pepper - go for a coarse grind.
4. Add to the seasoned ground pork, and mix until absorbed. Add oil by the 1/2 teaspoon if it needs to be loosened up.
5. Refrigerate for 24 hrs - you should see sausage develop a nice reddish tinge as the flavors mix together, and it should be pleasantly fragrant (mostly from the cumin and garlic, NOT the meat!).

The soup is easy - just be sure to give the lentils enough time to cook (different colors cook differently) and the wine time to mellow:

1. Brown the onion in a tbsp of extra virgin olive oil over medium-low heat. Season to taste (I mean salt. But for me, this may have included sneaking in 3 cloves of freshly pressed garlic).
2. Crumble and brown 1 lb of the sausage. I like make sure I've got at least a little brown on the bottom of the pot before adding anything else. If you like, add a 1/2 cup of stock first, kind of like your deglazing it to make sure you're picking up the flavor.
3. Add Hot Paprika, Thyme, Sage, as well as garlic, onion powder, salt and pepper to taste.
4. Add the stock, bring to a boil, and then simmer uncovered for 30 min.
5. Stir in lentils and then simmer for another 30 min.
6. Add the frozen spinach and tomatoes, simmer for 30 min.
7. Add the red wine, and simmer for 15 min. 
8. Salt and pepper to taste.

My moment of zen

I wish kitchen always smelled of this

I just thought this was pretty.

If you take your time and let the flavors develop, you'll be in a for a treat. It's pretty hearty soup, and a good sized bowl will make a nice meal on its own. It'll keep in the fridge for at least a week - and I've never had trouble making it through the entire pot over time.


Also, I have to recommend the sausage making. It's not difficult (and you certainly don't have to grind your own meat). I really need to get some casings and do it properly - and I may stick with this not-quite italian/not quite chorizo recipe. I did fry up some patties with the leftovers, and they were tasty (even with all the lovely fat and flavor left on the pan! I'm saving the rest for some version of a sausage sub later in the week.

Not pretty, but they go down easy.

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